More Than 60 Feared Dead in Failed Journey to Spain

Dozens of survivors found on fishing boat off Cape Verde were in a 'bad state'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 18, 2023 4:41 AM CDT
More Than 60 Feared Dead in Failed Journey to Spain
Children play on fishing boats known as "pirogues" in Dakar, Senegal, on June 24, 2023.   (AP Photo/Zane Irwin, File)

More than 60 migrants are feared dead after a Spanish fishing vessel rescued a boat off the Atlantic archipelago of Cape Verde that originally had more than 100 people aboard, authorities and migrant advocates said Thursday. Seven bodies were found on the boat and an estimated 56 people are missing at sea and presumed dead, said International Organization for Migration spokesperson Safa Msehli. According to Senegal's foreign affairs ministry, 38 people were rescued earlier in the week near Cape Verde, about 385 miles off the coast of West Africa, the AP reports. The Spanish migration advocacy group Walking Borders said the vessel was a large fishing boat, called a pirogue, which had left Senegal on July 10.

Families in Fass Boye, a seaside town 90 miles north of the capital, Dakar, reached out to Walking Borders on July 20, after 10 days without hearing from loved ones on the boat, group founder Helena Maleno Garzón said. Cheikh Awa Boye, president of the local fishing association, said survivors called home from Cape Verde after the rescue. Boye said two of his nephews are among those missing. Spain's Maritime Rescue Service confirmed that a Spanish fishing boat named the Zillarri rescued 38 people and recovered seven bodies from a Senegalese pirogue on Aug. 14 after spotting it adrift northeast of Cape Verde. An official of the tropical tuna fishing company PEVASA, which operates the Zillarri, said the survivors were asking for help and were in a "bad state."

Four children between 12 and 16 years old are among the survivors. Nearly 1,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, Walking Borders says. Worsening youth unemployment, political unrest, violence by armed groups, and climate change push migrants across West Africa to risk their lives on overcrowded boats. Nicholas Négoce at the BBC writes that sorrow "boiled over into frustration" in Fass Boye after news of the tragedy emerged. Residents set fire to cars and boats and attacked the mayor's home. "Young people blame a lack of opportunities and want the authorities to do more to help them," Négoce writes. (More Cape Verde stories.)

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